Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Teasing the mind

Assisting in teaching philosophy of religion at the University has indeed been a very special experience, so far.  I've taught the same course, albeit with a different content, but more or less the same themes, earlier as well.  That's in a seminary. But this experience here at the University has been very enriching. 

Comparatively I can say that back in the seminary we teach a group of students who are all believers.  So there is not a huge deal to convey proofs or arguments in favour of God or religion.  Convincing them of arguments for theism is pretty much a cake's walk. Unfortunately even the arguments against God and religion that are used and cited are mostly like paper tigers - appearing strong but somehow easily thrashed.  We do not really offer hardcore anti-theistic rational arguments for a robust philosophical study.  We merely tease or tickle the mind rather than crank it up to its maximum capacity. 

Perhaps we're afraid that the rational arguments may really challenge their faith.  Perhaps we, the educators ourselves, have not really been challenged.  Whatever it be the case, this opportunity to teach philosophy of religion has indeed been a great challenge for me.  Look forward to it, from further perspectives, in the next term as well.  

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Separation vs Amalgamation

Yours and mine, big and small 
erase these ideas from your mind. 
Then everything is yours and 
you belong to everyone. 

Insightful words from the Bhagavad Gita. 

Mary's "Yes"

Mary, at the moment of the annunciation, had no clue or past experience, not in her own life, not in the history of her family, not in the history of her people, no history ever!  What she was facing and told was something no one had ever asked or done before.  She had no precedent to follow or seek guidance from. 

Not that Mary was trying to weigh the pros and cons of her decision and then reply on its basis. But the point is that she had no clue, absolutely none, as to what she was getting into. 

Or did she? She did know what it means to be a 'mother'.  Perhaps to some extent she could have figured out what being a 'mother outside marriage' could spell for her. 

Or was she being 'naive'? Saying 'yes' without even a thought of what it actually means.  Just off hand.  Or totally distracted.  However the context in which Mary receives the message would not really make this possible.

So, ultimately, she did not have much!  Just "yes"! 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A heady mix

Clarity.
Doubts.
Haze.
Some light.
Confusion.
Thrill.
Flashes of insight.
Questions.
Going round in circles.

That's in gist how life has been in the past two weeks. This heady mix has been quite a bit.

A sample:
Belief = convictions not always verifiable by reason
but isn't imagination or hallucination the same?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Hope vs Skepticism

What if we cannot know the final judgement (either in Christian terms or in ordinary day to day life experience)? 
  • Suspend judgement.
  • In suspending judgement we can either have the attitude of a skeptic and say 'nothing can be known - end of everything!' Or have hope!  
  • Neither despair nor presumption. 
  • Which of the two attitudes (skepticism or hope) we adopt decides the mood. 


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Respect

You don't throw a whole life away just because it's banged up a little... 
That's one of the punch lines from the movie Seabiscuit

Why respect some great thinker, politician or celebrity if somewhere in his or her speeches or texts he or she has a very "biased" opinion about a certain group of people?  Why respect Kant and Hume, if they strongly felt that the whites were superior to the coloured skin? Why read and appreciate Aristotle if he felt men were superior to women?  Source: Aeon

  • Disrespecting the whole person and all his or her writings betrays a profound lack of understanding of how socially we are influenced, even the greatest of minds of any time. 
  • Never take one of their personal convictions to be the bedrock of all their thought and philosophy.  
  • We are judging them by today's standards and cultural openness - something that they did not have the privilege to in their times.  
  • While an individual is ultimately responsible for his own thoughts and actions, one cannot be held solely responsible, if the whole ambiance of his lifetime is flawed or biased.  (Jesus saying, "You don't give the dogs food meant for the children")
  • Accepting and admiring the deep thoughts of such men and women, is not affirming their 'racist or sexist' thoughts.  Racism and sexism were never okay, people simply wrongly believed that they were.
  • See if their fundamental way of thinking would be negatively prejudiced if applied today. 
Given Aristotle’s openness to evidence and experience, there is no question that today he would need no persuading that women are men’s equals. Hume likewise always deferred to experience, and so would not today be apt to suspect anything derogatory about dark-skinned peoples. In short, we don’t need to look beyond the fundamentals of their philosophy to see what was wrong in how they applied them.
  • Excusing them is not the same as excusing someone who's living today with some of those distorted values. We, the living, have the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons; we have history to learn from; we have the possibility of making amends; we may not be the ones who created such notions but are very much in a position to challenge them; we certainly are 'better equipped'... the dead have no such possibility! 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Bible as a rule book?

A couple of days ago I was in a group that was discussing the Bible.  One point mentioned therein was that the Bible is not a rule book.  While some felt that it basically boils down to that, others weren't sure.  I feel the book is certainly not a rule book.  It is more of an inspiration and a guide book.  A recommendation of instructions, at the most.  But not merely a list of do's and don'ts. 

Imagine a game without boundary or rules.  Without instructions of any kind.  It would be too confusing to everyone.  The players could do anything and everything.  The spectators watching the game would not understand head or tail of it - there wouldn't be anything to understand! 

The Bible too is like a motivational guide, if I were to speak in non-religious terms.  I do things or behave in a particular manner, not merely because the Bible-says-so, but because inspired by what I find in the Bible, I choose to be or do so.  I feel inspired by what it says and internally fell the thrill of living by those values.  
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